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Memories from the Homestead: Morgan Community Church still active today at Shepherd of the Hills Homestead

     Sitting here on the porch of Old Matt's Cabin enjoying my morning coffee, let's take a walk up the hill to the north side of Inspiration Point. Here in the trees sits the 1901 Morgan Chapel.

 



     Today this church is used as a wedding chapel and you can get all the details about that at our website: theshepherdofthehills.com.

 

What many don't perhaps know, is this church was saved from destruction in 1990. It was moved 83 miles to here and rebuilt, with its original windows, bell tower, door and seating all put back in place.

 

     Gary Snadon, owner here at the time, went on a mission to save this local Morgan community landmark, and it was carefully dismantled.  He made sure the original 1901 cornerstone made the trip to its new home as well. Today the cornerstone sits on the ground just outside of the building. The sound inside this room is amazing, and as I take my seat inside the church right now on the fifth row, I can just imagine the voices during a hymn sing. The seating capacity is almost 100.

 

     The location here is just perfect. Author Harold Bell Wright while writing his Shepherd of the Hills book manuscript here in the summer of 1905 had just wrapped up a pastorate position in Kansas City. This building is very reminiscent of the churches he preached in during that part of his career. In the fall of1905, he relocated to Lebanon not far from where this church was located and pastored there, his final two years as a Missouri resident. By 1907 when "Shepherd" was released, Wright had moved to California. 

 

     Morgan, Missouri was a thriving Laclede County town for a number of years. The Morgan Post Office was commissioned on March 31, 1896 by Phillip Rader. As the first postmaster, he named it in honor of local resident Asa Morgan, a Civil War veteran. 

 

     The town grew nicely, and by the mid-1920s it had all the basics of a small Ozarks community. Morgan had this church, and a Baptist Church nearby, plus a blacksmith, a mill, a school, a cannery, a mercantile, and don't forget the ice cream parlor. The bank, established in 1919, did very well, with a capital of $10,000.

 

     Unfortunately, the events of the Great Depression put a serious hurt on the Morgan community and they never did bounce back. By the 1970s there wasn't much left. Today a grocery store and gas station are about all that remains, with a number of residents, many who have been present for generations. The Baptist Church is still active.

 

     It's truly wonderful to see the Morgan Chapel still in use here at the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead. Harold Bell Wright was quoted in one of his writings with a statement that says it all. "You must work hard, young sir, while the book of God is still open, and God's message is easily read. When the outside world comes, men will turn the page, and you may lose the place."

 

     During the season here, the Morgan Chapel is open to park guests and is included in the Adventure Park's gated admission. I also include it as a stop during my historical Homestead tour as well. Inside you'll see another awesome item, a 1905 pump organ donated by the Doerner family from Cape Fair.

 

    For further viewing, check out a YouTube video that I participated in recently from inside the Morgan Chapel. In the search type the following, "Songs of the Ozarks John Fullerton." Produced by Missouri State University Libraries, and hosted by Emalee Flatness, the seventy-minute feature was an interview where I talked about my musical beginnings and some area history. Check it out!

 

    Well, my coffee is ready for a warm-up, it's a great morning here at the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead, farm, and Adventure Park. I'm doing the guided tours here daily except Sunday and Monday. The tours are 90 minutes long and depart at 10, 12, and 2. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, I do a special 4 p.m. tour that goes more into a behind-the-scenes look of the Outdoor Theater here, now presenting the 64th year of the Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama. I hope to see you on the trail!

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